Faces: Backus man goes out on limb for family
Roland Orth, of Backus, is living proof that some risks are worth taking, especially with a little support from loved ones.
Orth owns Roland's Tree Service.
"It's more or less high-risk tree removal," said Orth, 26. "If there's a tree over a house, I rope it all down without hurting anything. That's kind of how it goes."
It's a high-risk job for someone so young and with so much to lose, but Orth chose the job precisely because of how much he has to gain.
"Without risk there is no reward," Orth said. "It's high pay because it's high risk, more or less."
The money isn't for him. It's for his family's future. Orth grew up with a rough family background and very little beyond the absolute necessities. He grew up near Dad's Elwell Store on County Road 2, where his grandmother raised him with few extra luxuries.
He had family in Backus, the Orths, Rices and Hamiltons, and knew almost everyone in town. As such, he grew up aware of the mover and shaker families in the area - the Days, Evelands, Sawyers, Sheleys, Godfreys and others who were their own bosses, made their marks and had something their children could depend on growing up and even later. This would inspire him some day.
In the meantime, Orth started working toward independence through hard work.
"I was working three jobs," Orth said. "I worked Scamp full time; after Scamp I went to the Corner Store. On the weekends I would work at the Hungry Loon in Pequot cooking, and then after I got done there I worked at the Corner Store until closing."
Orth said he made good money, but he had nothing to show for it. He said his life choices left him lost around that time. Four months of camping in the woods provided Orth with some soul searching just about the time he was introduced to tree services.
"I kind of found out who I was," Orth said. "An opportunity came along, and I jumped on it and moved to Waukesha (Wisconsin) for a year or two. We went to Hurricane Sandy and I did a lot of big bucket truck work there for them. It was in Waukesha where I learned to climb."
After the hurricane, he returned to Backus to work with the Scamp Travel Trailer company. Around that time he met Krissy Colvin. She turned his life around.
"The first time I met her was at Eelpout," Orth said. "I was probably 17 and I thought she was pretty. I met her again three years ago. I went to a party and we locked eyes ... More or less I bought her flowers on Valentine's Day and after that we started to see each other. I met her three kids - Roman, Carter and Mariah. I fell in love with her, and her kids are so fun. We just kept hanging out and it was kind of a big decision for me, but I had never met anyone that understood me, and it was a nice thing."
Orth accepted Colvin's kids as his own, and over the years that meant working with them in mind.
"Krissy really changed me a lot and I don't think she understands how much I appreciate her," Orth said. "Having these kids really brought me down to earth a lot. Being a father is the best thing I ever had happen to me."
Orth took side jobs to help provide for the family, especially after Colvin became pregnant with their first child together. That uncovered for him the next big chapter in his life.
When the big storm blew through the Nisswa area, Orth saw it as an opportunity to make a lot of money.
He gathered friends and borrowed equipment by promising the owners a share of the profits. The money was so good, Orth had to make a big decision.
"We made a lot of money and it continued and continued," Orth said. "I wanted to go back to Scamp. That was the original plan - take a week off and make some money because any average Joe was going there making money cutting wood. I actually had experience in it. More or less, I asked Krissy if I should go back to Scamp."
With Colvin's support, Orth went out on a limb in the hopes he could support his family better as his own boss than he did as someone's employee. In a year, the experiment had proven a success and he decided to make his business official. He took on the name Roland's Tree Service, bought heavy equipment, hired crews and invested in better insurance policies.
What started with three saws and borrowed equipment is now a business with seven saws, trailers, zip-lines, tree climbing gear, a backpack blower, two trucks and a Dingo (a sort of walk-behind skid loader). Orth often has a crew of two to three to help him with ground work.
He said 90 percent of his jobs are on lake homes, especially now that homeowners are watching the horizon for the next big storm.
"This year a lot of the work I've done was prevention work," Orth said. "The last couple storms have scared them. A $300 tree standing is a $900 to $1,500 tree on their house."
As a 26-year-old who has four children and a long-term girlfriend, Orth has a lot to lose every time he goes up a tree to do his job. He said that in spite of absolutely beautiful sights from up above, he doesn't particularly like climbing, but his inspiration is what makes it all worthwhile.
"When you have kids like this, you want them to have a better life than you did," Orth said. "Me risking my life is worth it to know my kids are going to be fed well. Bills are paid. My old lady is happy; I'm happy. They all have clothes and food, and bills are paid. What more could you ask for beyond a happy family and happy life?"
Orth said his success so far has depended on his friends who spread the word when he first started. As far as taking on his own business, he can't speak more highly of that one big risk he took.
"It's different," Orth said. "I've never had anything. It's nice to know my kids will have something to fall back on when they are older. I didn't have anything like that. At the age of 26, having my own business, it feels great. I would recommend to all my friends if they have the opportunity, to do something they love."